WMC: June 2019
As we walked the last 118 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago from Sarria during the May half term holiday, the phrase "Buen Camino" (translating as 'have a good journey' or 'have a good Camino') could be heard all around us. We said it to those we passed and others greeted us in a similar fashion.
The Camino de Santiago known as the Way of Saint James, is a network of pilgrims routes leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain. Legend has it that St. James's remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain, where he was buried in what was to become the city of Santiago de Compostela
During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled and was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages that could be undertaken, together with those to Rome and Jerusalem. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th century Europe led to its decline.
Today, the Camino attracts a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the world. In 2016, 277,854 travellers completed the pilgrimage and received their Compostela certificates.
Our experience surpassed what we were expecting, and we are still reflecting on what we learnt as we walked. It has also whetted my appetite as I looking forward to my Sabbatical next autumn, when I will undertake the whole of the Camino Francés from St. Jean Pied de Port in France, a total of some 800 kilometres.
One of the questions that is often asked is how long does it take to walk the Camino? Well, most of the guidebooks break the journey from St. Jean Pied de Port down into 33 sections, but of course, you could do it quicker than that if you wanted.
Perhaps the danger of seeing how quickly you can complete the Camino is that it then simply turns into a long walk. Part of the secret of any pilgrimage is that you take the time to experience all that is has to offer and be reminded of that age old saying that how you travel is just as important as reaching your final destination.
Walking the Camino at the end of May slowed us down and gave us both space and time in this frenetic and instantaneous world in which we now live.
Of course, there is a very real sense in which we are all pilgrimages and for us as well as for the sake of the world and others, how we travel, is as important as where we are going.
"Buen Camino" may be the greeting of those on the Way of St. James, but surely it is also our greeting and refrain as we encourage one another in our journey of faith as we follow in His footsteps.
With love and God Bless
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